I hope none of my close male friends read this column. If they do, I suspect they will conclude that I am talking about them. Well, this is not the case. Truth be told, I am not talking about any of them.
However, the impetus for this column came from discussions I have had with a few of these friends. You know some of the “characters” to whom I refer. These are old men operating in a world that has passed them by; men who have a desire to do certain things while their bodies tell them something quite different. These guys still go out in the streets, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings; “old heads” with no interest in women their age and egos that dictate they should be in the company of a younger lady. I imagine you can picture the type: Men who dress “as clean as the board of health;” still walk with a stroll; “gangster-lean;” they drive their automobiles, something resembling a throw rug on their heads; and continue to rely on their “black books” in this electronic age. So, in keeping with the lingo of today’s generation, we have those who are identified as “players” but were known by other names, back in the day.
If you were around pre-1960, you can relate to how some young men were viewed back then. While it was more apparent in high school, we observed a few junior high school boys who began to show an interest in young girls. Looking back, it appears that the reputations, developed during this early stage of the lives of some remained with them over the years. In fact, these are some of the players whom I referenced earlier. As you read this column, try to visualize someone from your past who was referred to as a “Casanova.” Yes, this was one of the names that players back in the day were known by. Think back, you know of a Johnny, Larry, Joe or James whom you and your friends described as a “Casanova.” This label was assigned to them because of the behavior they demonstrated in their relationships with young ladies at school or in the neighborhood. Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was a real person; an Italian adventurer who wrote in vivid detail about his encounters with women. We saw the Casanova in keeping with the definition I came across on the Internet in an on-line urban dictionary. This document described him as a smooth-talking charmer who had mastered the art of finding, meeting, attracting and seducing beautiful women. Once he accomplished his goal, he moved on to find his next conquest. Just absorb these words as you picture the Casanovas you knew back in the day.
If Casanova was not the descriptive term assigned to young men in your past, young men who always had romantic thoughts in mind when in the company of a young lady, then perhaps you knew them as a “Don Juan.” Interestingly, another Italian, and yes, another smooth-talking charmer. Then some of you will recall as teenagers and during your young adult years telling a female friend to stay away from a particular young man, as he was nothing more than a “playboy.” Those regarded as playboys were easy to identify. They could not stand still; they went from one young lady to another. Going steady was not an option for them, as they had to always be ready to move on to another adventure. The playboys I knew seemingly took pride in being labeled as playboys. Furthermore, these so-called playboys I knew were usually good-looking guys. It is worth remembering that some guys, because of their good looks, were believed to be playboys even though their behavior did not fit the bill of a playboy. If you recall, with or without the label of playboy, good-looking males were referred to as “pretty boys” back in the day.
Who in your circle was referred to as a “Romeo” back in the day? For the most part, this is the same person as the player we know today. You remember him from your reading of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet;” he was the lover of Juliet. Over the years, just like your back-in-the-day years, any male with a reputation for pursuing and succeeding in his dealings with a female was a Romeo.
In attempting to make someone from your past remember an old classmate or friend, you probably do as I often do. I dig up some of those old terms in an attempt to bring their images to mind. You recall discussions that go something like this. “You have to remember Rudy, as he was a ‘ladies’ man.’” Sure enough, a picture of your former classmate Rudy becomes fixated in your mind. After all, there was no one who could compete with Rudy for being a ladies’ man.
Think about those from your past who were characterized as “womanizers?” I understand that Don Juan is used synonymously with womanizer. What was your thought when a male in whom you had some interest was identified as being “suave?” Even though “man about town” could mean many things, quite often saying that one was a man about town, with the right inflection in one’s voice signaled that this was a man with a major interest in the opposite sex. A “spiddyock” or a “yock” is another of those terms that could mean many things. Urbandictionary.com refers to its use back in the 1950s; it referred to younger people who listened to jazz records and dressed casually or in a modern dress style. I recall the spiddyock as being a cool, fashionable dresser. This dress style alone enabled such characters to operate freely in the female world. Do you recall anyone being called “Candy” or “Candy Man” or “Sweet Ones” or just plain “Sweets?” They, too, were men about town on the hunt, back in the day.
Was there a “ladykiller” or “loverboy” in your neighborhood? What about one who was simply referred to as “smooth?” Then there was “her man.” “Mack Daddy” is another name assigned to womanizers in the past. How many of you can relate to the term “Jody” that some males carried with them in the past? If not, look into the old blues song involving Joe D. Grinder and Black soldiers during World War II. Being a Jody was not a term that anyone embraced back in the day.
There were also those terms that a ladies’ man did not particularly embrace. Just take the term “sugar daddy.” Most of you know about the behavior of this person, an older man who is generally sought after by a younger lady only for his money. There were sugar daddies back then and there remain sugar daddies today. What did you think of someone being referred to as a “philanderer?” Or, what is your reaction to someone who was referred to as a “pleasure seeker?” Not good, you must agree. These were not good terms, nor was the term “dog.” I do not think anyone wanted the labels of philanderer, pleasure seeker or dog. But, being identified as a “social climber” was a different story. Someone meeting the criteria for this term dated right into status and class or at least was making the attempt to do so.
A Tribune employee, Jules Childs, upon learning I was writing on the topic of this column provided me with his thoughts; thoughts appropriate to leave with you and all of today’s players. He told me I should remind my current player friends to take a close look at a simple mathematical formula. While being a Casanova, or womanizer or playboy may have added up for them in the past, being someone 40 or 50 or older today requires a real understanding of life that involves simple math; an understanding that should cause our players of today to throw in the towel. Well, to state it as gingerly as possible, a number like 70 does not divide well or go into 30. Confused? Well most of you will understand this old-school math equation, as you know that today’s players are not the men they used to be, back in the day.
Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at email@example.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146.